America’s power grid is a complex system used to deliver electricity to citizens across the nation. The first commercial power grid was called The Pearl Street Station, and was created by Thomas Edison in Manhattan in 1882. Over the years, the grid has proved to be a successful source of energy for out nation. The power grid delivers four hundred billion dollars of electricity yearly through the course of 2.7 million miles of transmission lines. Moreover, the grid itself consists of thee smaller grids: Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection and Texas Interconnection.How it works is through an interconnected system of power plants and transformers connected by over 450,000 miles of transmissions lines. First, power is created at power plants and then sent to substations via the transmission lines. Then, a smaller, local system of low-voltage transmissions lines delivers it to each individual customer.
Along with the obvious successes or benefits to the power grid, some other benefits include the ability of the grid to accept any form of power-water, wind, etc. Also, the network distribution creates lower cost production, which is certainly a good thing for customers. In other words, this interconnected network allows access to bulk energy by receiving power from different sources. For example, during high water seasons cheap hydro power may be produced, but in low water seasons, cheap power may be produced by wind, which allows different regions to receive assistance from one another during difficult times.
While the power grid has been a successful machine for america, there are also many downsides to it’s infrastructure. First, because of the interconnectedness of the grid, power outages can often lead to blackouts across more than one region. As a result, the grid becomes less reliable and people will search for new means of acquiring energy. Additionally, it’s infrastructure is aging rapidly and desperately needs an upgrade in order to function properly. We need to look into more investments in order to decrease disruptions in service ,due to having components that have different age, capacity, and conditions, as well as meet the demands of our rapidly growing population and it’s demands for energy. Thus, the power grid is becoming threatened as people are searching for their own ways to create electricity. Companies such as google and apple have begun to develop solar farms to get their electricity. Verizon is spending $100 million to power offices and call centers via solar panels and fuel cells. Hospitals, universities, and other big companies are rapidly installing fuel cells that get electricity through a chemical reaction. Clearly, if the power grid does not undergo major change, the US will find other ways of getting more reliable and cheaper electricity as the demand for it grows.
There has been quite a bit of research done on how to improve the grid system. An emerging advance in the system is the smart grid! In 2009, President Obama give $4.5 billion of the stimulus package to be put toward the building of the smart grid, but billions more have gone towards renewable energy such as solar energy. There is quite obviously hope for the smart grid if the US is willing to pay the extra price at the beginning.
Unlike existing grids, which are used to carry power from a few central generators to many consumers, the smart grid will use ” two-way ﬂows of electricity and information to create an automated and distributed advanced energy delivery network.” Another big difference is that the physical infrastructure would be replaced with a digital one, something that will cost a lot of money. However, in the long run a smart grid would help customers to receive cheaper, greener, less intrusive, more reliable and higher quality power from the grid.
Personally, I feel that more money and time should be invested in renewable sources of energy such as solar panels and wind power because it would ultimately be less costly and better for the environment. It is only a matter of time until we run out of resources, and we should begin to think of future generations as we advance our electrical operation systems.